TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE BOOK REVIEW

Thursday, July 12, 2018

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was an absolutely adorable read. I was in love with Jenny Han’s writing style (in a Goodreads status update I likened it to cake), Lara Jean and her family, and of course, ALL THE FOOD. But sadly, this book also had elements that left a bad taste in my mouth. Since the movie adaption is coming out on Netflix in August, I thought it might be a good time to post my review. =) Here it goes...
My Rating: Two and a Half Love Letters Out of Five
About the Book...



What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
What I Loved...
Jenny Han’s writing style. Oh my word, Jenny Han’s writing style was as addictive and sweet as salty chocolate caramels. I found myself gobbling up every sentence and finishing this book in about two days. 

The realistic sibling relationships. I loved reading about (and sometimes even relating to!) Lara Jean’s interactions with her sisters Margot and Kitty (especially Kitty). I feel like there aren’t enough positive, realistic sibling relationships in YA literature and was so happy to see them portrayed in this novel. I mean, who doesn’t fight with their siblings over stupid things, and what would life be like without younger siblings’ “helpful” advice? Also I’m not the only one who begs my little sister to do my hair, right?


All. The. Food. I love food. I like eating food. I like making food. I like taking pictures of food. THERE WAS A LOT OF FOOD IN THIS BOOK. From cake to cookies to sandwiches to ice cream to hot chocolate to… I need to stop now. I’m getting hungry. xD

All the cuteness. There were so many cute squeal-worthy moments in this book, from the cupcake making with Peter to the Christmas Cookie Bonanza. =)

The characters. Let’s just say that I absolutely loved Kitty. And Lara Jean. And Peter K. (he and Lara Jean were SO CUTE together). And Lara Jean’s dad. And the rest of the cast of characters was also pretty great BUT...
What I Didn't Love...
The characters drove me nuts sometimes. I mean, Lara Jean, can you FOR ONCE tell the truth?! And being in love with your sister’s ex IS NOT COOL AT ALL. And Josh. Josh was not my favorite human being. Neither was Margot. Margot seemed as prickly as a cactus. Margot and Josh were probably my least favorite characters, besides Genevieve (the whole mean girl thing is getting way overused, if you ask me). And Peter K.… Well, he drove me nuts by being Peter Kavinsky (read the book to understand, please).

Foul language. A book would be perfectly fine without it. And yet it has to be sprinkled there. 

Love triangles are getting old. Am I the only one who thinks this? I mean, we get it. Girl likes boy. Oh, but another boy likes girl. Girl now discovers that she may like other boy. Girl has such a hard time choosing. Girl breaks one boy’s heart and then is unsure about the other. This then continues for a whole series and we readers are screaming “PICK ALREADY IT IS NOT HARD.” The end. 

Me at some times during this book.

Sex was talked about way too casually and was a big part of the plot. Who was sleeping with who and whatnot was too big of a part of this book. As a Christian, I believe that sex should be saved for marriage, and the characters in this novel definitely didn't believe that! Please understand, I don't expect everyone to agree with my beliefs, but this is a young adult novel. I wouldn't feel comfortable handing this book over to my fourteen year old sister. 

Parties and drinking. On the topic of content, there were a couple more "mature" parties and some characters (including Peter, who is underage) drank alcohol during these parties. That's all I can think of right now. 
Overall...
While To All the Boys I've Loved Before was at times as fluffy and sweet as a marshmallow, the content, clichés, and some aspects of the plot and characters led to a two and a half star rating from me. 
About the Author
Jenny Han 
Jenny Han is the New York Times bestselling author of ShugThe Summer I Turned Pretty series, co-author of the Burn for Burn series, and most recently, the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy. She is a former children's bookseller and children's librarian. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

I hope to see you next week as I kick off my blog party to celebrate the release of "Dear Jamie, Love Rory" on July 19! 


Have you read To All the Boys I've Loved Before? What rating would you give it? Does content lead you to give a book a lower rating? 

I'm Tired of "Strong" Female Characters Part Four - The Wrap-Up

Friday, July 6, 2018

I almost can't believe that this is the last part of my series on strong women in fiction! I've had a blast sharing my thoughts and tips and chatting about this topic with you all in the comments. Before I continue, here are the links to the rest of this series in case any of you would like to catch up. =)
The Rest of the Series...



I'd like to close this series not by offering any more tips or pointing out amazing strong female characters in fiction, but by challenging my fellow writers to craft truly strong women in their stories. 

We writers have the amazing ability to influence people through the words we write. We don't just write our stories for enjoyment. We get to encourage people with our stories. We get to tell them truth. We get to inspire people. We get to show them what's right and wrong. We get to tell stories that change people, that change the world.

We get this privilege... Let's not abuse it. Let's use it! 

My hope and prayer for all of my fellow writers is that God will guide them to write stories that will glorify him. I hope that those same stories can also help girls realize what it means to be a truly strong women of the Lord who don't look to their abilities or positions of power for their strength, but to their Lord and Savior. 

Thank you so much for joining me during this series on strong women in fiction! Be sure to visit Notebooks and Novels again next week for a book review of Jenny Han's novel To All the Boys I've Loved Before


Which of these posts was your favorite? Which was most helpful? Will you take on the challenge to write about strong female characters? 



P.S. Be sure to check out my article on PURSUE on friendships with the guys in your life! Click here to read 4 Tips For Having Great Friendships With Guys. 

I'm Tired of "Strong" Female Characters Part Three

Friday, June 29, 2018

Last week, I shared three tips on crafting a strong female character in this blog post. This week, I've saved my biggest tip for last. It's just one tip, but I've saved this for one big post so that it's easier to understand and apply. Are you ready? Here we go! 
Let Her Be Strong in Other Ways.
The only way that strong women seem to be depicted as being strong is in a fierce and violent way. 

The strong woman is the one beating up all of the bad guys. She's the one leading the rebels into battle. She's the one going undercover. She's doing what the guys can't (my thoughts on this will need to wait for a different post). But fighting isn't the only way a woman can be strong.

One strong woman in fiction is Arwen of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. 

She doesn't fight anyone. She doesn't kill anyone. She doesn't run around "breaking stereotypes" and "proving that women can do whatever men can do." Yet she doesn't sit around making doilies either. Arwen waits loyally for Aragorn to come back to her. She never lets go of the hope that she will be reunited with Aragorn. She encourages others around her. She is full of grace and isn't afraid to be feminine. 


 

Arwen makes the hard choice to stay behind with the man she loves instead of leaving Middle Earth with her people for someplace far safer. She refuses to let go of love, even if it is the "easier" way out.

Sometimes, being strong doesn't mean chasing the bad guys. Sometimes, it means simply being brave, no matter what's going on around you. Sometimes it means being strong for others, even if we aren't the ones charging into battle against an army of orcs.

Doesn't it take more strength to heal than it does to hurt? 

Coolest place ever, and I will continue checking all wardrobes until I find it. xD 

Lucy Pevensie, from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, was given a special healing cordial from Father Christmas. She uses this cordial to heal others, including her brother Edmund. Yes, Lucy uses a dagger when necessary, but she is primarily a healer, in my opinion.

It takes more strength to heal and mend than it does to hurt others. It takes more strength to help others than to tear them down. Women were designed by God to be nurturing, loving, and caring. These traits shine in healing. Why shouldn't the strong women of fiction do more healing, not just in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense? 

We need to see more women who are strong in character in the books we read.



When I think of a strong female character that is strong in character, I almost immediately think of DC Comic's Wonder Woman. Wait a minute, you may be saying. Isn't she one of those cliché strong women? And aren't you a Marvel Comics fan?* Well, yes, Wonder Woman does a whole lot of this....



...But what I love about Wonder Woman is that she has a strong character. She is full of compassion. She wants to help others. She stands strong in her beliefs, no matter what. She encourages the people around her. She is full of grace, and despite all of her fighting for justice, she is also gentle. Wonder Woman isn't just strong physically, but she is also strong in character. She's a great example of a strong female in fiction, in my opinion. Her character is something that girls can truly look up to!

*Yes, I am a HUGE Marvel Comics fan, but I have two exceptions to my I-don't-like-DC-that-much stance. Those two exceptions are the Flash (Grant Gustin's Flash, of course) and Wonder Woman. 

These are just a few ways that women in fiction can break free from our culture's fake version of strength and be truly strong. 

I've only scratched the surface of this subject with this post. There are so many different ways women can be strong without having to hurt others or be a ninja-warrior. Are there women that can beat up bad guys? Yes, there absolutely are. Is there anything wrong with having a female character who happens to be skilled in archery or swordplay? No, there isn't. But girls need to see more than just that in the women they look up to fiction. 

I hope you'll join me next week as I wrap up this series on strong female characters. 


What do you think? What are some other ways women can be strong? 

I'm Tired of "Strong" Female Characters Part Two ~ Three Tips On Crafting Strong Female Characters

Friday, June 22, 2018

Last week, I talked about why I'm tried of "strong" women characters and why we need truly strong women characters in this blog post. This week, I'm going to offer up three tips to help you craft truly strong women characters in your stories. Let's begin, shall we? =)
1. Let Her Be Feminine
Take a moment and think about some of the characters that fit the "strong" woman cliché. What is one thing that they all seem to have in common? Pretty much every single one of them is barely feminine. This doesn't mean that they don't just not like the color pink. This means that they are rough, fierce, sarcastic, etc. One could say that they are more masculine than feminine. All so that they can be "strong." 

Since when did actually being feminine become looked down upon? Since when did it make a woman weak? The message that all of these "strong" women are sending girls is that to be strong, you can't be feminine. And I'm just not talking about the difference between being a tomboy and being a girly-girl. I'm talking about almost everything that makes a woman a woman being viewed as weak. 
God created girls to be different than guys. Shouldn't this beautiful truth be celebrated in our stories instead of glossed over and tossed away? Why not celebrate the feminine aspects of women such as their gentleness and grace? Why not fill strong women with compassion and love? Why not let them find joy in serving in ways, such as cooking, helping with kids, and cleaning? Why not let them be women

The Take-Away: Your strong female characters are allowed to be feminine. Let them like girly things, have feminine pastimes, act feminine, etc. Let them be WOMEN.
2. Let Her Have Feelings
A message that I feel is promoted in YA fiction today is this: Ignore all of your feelings, and you'll be stronger.* This is a message that I believe girls around the globe are soaking up, and that is definitely not okay. Why can't a girl face her feelings and make wise decisions instead of ignoring them?  Girls are very, very emotional. Our emotions are a big deal! We need to see women in the stories we read handling how they feel the right way. 


In the Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen is notorious for shutting out her feelings or acting purely upon them, both of which have dire consequences for her and the people she loves. Both aren't healthy ways to deal with emotions. What would've truly made Katniss stronger would have been her facing her feelings and learning how to deal with everything she felt.** 

The Take-Away: Let your character have feelings. Don't turn her into a ninja-robot. Allow her to be able to confront her feelings and handle them in a healthy way.
*Either that, or let your feelings do the driving, but that discussion is for a different post... 
**I am by NO MEANS trying to hate on Katniss Everdeen (she's one of my favorite cliché strong woman characters). I'm just trying to make a point with someone whose way of dealing with her emotions drove me nuts. xD 
3. Let Her Need Others
Strong women are often applauded for not needing a man to save them, for being able to everything themselves. But what's wrong with being the damsel in distress every once in a while? Isn't it a mark of true strength to acknowledge that you can't do some things on your own and to accept the help of others? Why then should strong women not need help, from men (especially men) or other women? Why should having a man help a woman make that woman weak? 


Two strong women (or should I say girls?) in fiction are Susan and Lucy Pevensie of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. One of Queen Susan's gifts from Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, besides her bow and arrow, is a magic horn that can summon help when it's blown. In the films and the novels she uses it a few times when she and Lucy get into trouble. Does calling for help and receiving it make these queens of Narnia any less strong? Absolutely not! 

In reality, we can't do much of anything alone. We all need saving at times. Why should the strong women in our stories be able to do everything themselves and be strong on their own? To "empower" women? To prove a point? To promote feminism? If so, those are terrible excuses for making women in fiction weak in the name of strength.

The Take-Away: Your character doesn't have to do it alone. Let her be the damsel in distress every once in a while. It doesn't hurt to need saving every once in a while! Put your character in situations where she'll have to rely on others and/or work with them to achieve her goals. 

I hope that you will join me next week as I continue this series on strong women in fiction by offering my last (big!) tip on crafting a truly strong woman character. 


Which of these tips do you find the most helpful? Why do you think that strong woman characters aren't very feminine? Do you have any tips to offer? 

I'm Tired of "Strong" Female Characters Part One

Saturday, June 16, 2018

You know her. She’s got an athletic build and the uncanny ability to wield any weapon. Occasionally, there’s some superhuman power. More often than not, the title of savior/chosen one/leader/queen/princess/empress/insert-important-title-here is thrust upon her. She’s got a great distaste for anything pink, sparkly, or remotely girl (although she’s known to rock a dress when forced). Usually she’s got a handsome boyfriend that she ends up having to protect. And in the midst of it all, she’s keeping a bunch of secrets beneath her warrior-queen exterior.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the strong female character.


If you haven’t met her, then you obviously haven’t read a lot of YA fiction. She comes in many forms, such as the fantasy/sci-fi version I painted a picture of above. She can be found in pretty much every genre. She can be the main character, the secondary character, a background character… She’ll probably be there somewhere, if not in a book, then in a TV show or movie. And to be honest….

I’m tired of this “strong” female character cliché.


This is not to say that I don’t like some typical cliché strong female characters. In fact, they can be done very well. I'm thinking of memorable characters such as Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games and Parvin Blackwater of the A Time To Die series. But it seems to me that we have begun to define strong women by physical strengths, talents, and powers, their boyfriends and multiple love interests, their positions of power, their ability to go it alone, a hatred (or at least some form of dislike) of all things feminine… The list goes on.

Why does a girl have to be a warrior-queen to be strong?


I know lots of strong women, and none of them are half ninja. They find their strengths in places other than their looks and their ability to beat up boys and lead rebel nations. Strength, in our culture, has become more of a physical attribute than anything else. Strength is defined by how you carry yourself, how athletic and muscular you are, how intimidating you are... The list goes on. But the strength that these strong female characters have isn't true strength. 

True strength doesn't come from being a rebel leader or wielding a bow and arrow. 



True strength is something that comes from within, not from the outside. True strength isn't ignoring your feelings, it's confronting them. True strength is finding the courage to do what's right. It's staying strong though all life throws at you. True strength comes from faith in God. True strength is something that female characters in YA fiction desperately need.

I want girls to know that their strength doesn't come their fists. 

I want them to have real strength, not the fake version that has been offered up to all of us in today's movies, books, and TV shows. I want them to be inspired to be truly strong by the stories I write. Fellow writers, we get the privilege to change this cliché and inspire girls to become truly strong women though our stories. We get to do more than just entertain with the stories we spin. We get to inspire. We get to motivate. We get to encourage. What an awesome privilege that is, am I right?

Next week, I hope that you'll join me for part two of this series as I offer some tips on how you can make the female characters in your writing truly strong. 


What are your thoughts on strong female characters? What do you think is true strength? Who is your favorite character that falls into the "strong woman" cliché? 

CopyRight © Micaiah Saldaña | Header and Brand Designed By Eric Barr | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan